Scary cold call

by , under life, o tempora

Phone: Ring, ring!

In fact it didn’t ring so much as play a Grine Kuzine song, because it was my mobile phone. It said “unknown caller”. I’ve had several calls from Unknown Caller in the past few weeks, all hanging up the moment I pushed “answer”, making me start to think someone was stalking me. Of course there’s no way to see if all these Unknown Callers were the same Unknown Caller, but it hasn’t happened since this call so I think yes.

Me: [my name]

Caller: Good MOR-ning! Am I calling at a convenient moment?

Me: Actually, no. But you’ve interrupted me anyway now, so it’s all right.

Right in the middle of a difficult scene in the roleplaying writeup. But that was hardly her fault– it was just that I wanted to finish it early so Amre’s player could read it before going on holiday.

Caller: I’m looking for the person responsible for the website

Er, what? itself isn’t a “website” as such, it’s a domain hosting various websites, and most of those are virtual domains under other names.

Me: Er, that’ll be me.

No need to disturb my other half, in whose name the domain is registered, who is working on something even less suited to being interrupted. Anyway, I’m the webmaster.

Caller: I’m calling on behalf of Marktplaats. We have a promotion, we’re allowed to give away 50 euros of advertising budget to place a top-ranked advertisement.

Me: (confused) I don’t think I have anything to sell at the moment.

Caller: Then I know enough, thank you. Goodbye!  *click*

I’m not very good at dealing with unexpected phone calls from unknown people at the best of times, and this was a particularly confusing one. It’s true that I’ve used Marktplaats to sell some stuff I inherited, and perhaps I did leave my mobile number, though I usually give that only to family and friends. The only easily visible link between and my mobile number is probably on that site, because I may have put them both in the same things-for-sale ad, now long expired.

I wandered around confused for a while and then it suddenly occurred to me that this might not have been Marktplaats at all, it might have been an attempt to cheat me: make me pay for something fictitious, or get information that they could use to hack the website. Perhaps admitting that I was responsible for the website, when they apparently had my mobile number as well, had already given them enough information for that, especially as she’d said “I know enough”. There’s not much to be gained from me or (except that it would be a huge pain in the unmentionables) but I couldn’t be sure that they knew that. (Paranoid, I know, but usually I’m prone to not being paranoid enough, nice change.)

So I thought I’d ask the Marktplaats people if they were in fact having this promotion. Sending Marktplaats mail is harder than it looks: they do all they can to discourage it. Once you get to the mail form you first have to choose a Subject –at least that menu has an “Other”– and then a secondary subject. It refuses to send your message if it doesn’t have a secondary subject, even if there’s nothing at all in the menu that fits.

marktplaats mail form
They do in fact have None in the menu, but the form didn’t accept that. None of the accepted options, “Rating for Services ad”, “Change e-mail address”, “Didn’t get confirmation message”, “Mobile Marktplaats”, “Delete my account”, “Failure of service”, “Question about use of Marktplaats”, fit what I was sending them mail about. I don’t remember what I selected in the end, I think the last. There was no “Send me a copy” button either; I should of course have copied my text but didn’t think of that.

When I had typed three paragraphs of text and hit Verder (Next) I was sent to a page of frequently asked questions containing or at least associated with some of the words I typed, like “oplichten” (cheat, deceive), so I got things like “What do I have to watch out for when purchasing a cat?” and “What do I have to watch out for when purchasing a dog? because apparently that’s something that attracts cheating sellers. “Is your question one of these?” No, it isn’t, and I want to SEND IT DAMMIT, not be diverted again and again.

When I’d finally managed to send it I got a confirmation saying they’d get back to me in three working days, but five working days have passed now and I haven’t heard anything.

Then serendipity made me find this sales talk (in Dutch) from a training bureau that gives training in cold-calling. The exact same thing had happened to this person. It was legit all right, but aimed at businesses. Clearly the Marktplaats people had thought, for some reason, that is a company with something to sell.

… they could have looked? and only found links to a couple of personal and not-for-profit sites? How much time would they have saved if they’d done that?


  1. Zeborah

    Tangential: Dog scams are one I never came across myself but heard the idea of how they work. Victim makes a deal to buy (or adopt without paying) a dog from another country. Then it turns out the dog needs vaccinations before being allowed to travel, which the victim is asked to pay for. Then there’s more travel paperwork. And more. Maybe the dog gets sick and there’s vet fees, whatever. Same idea as all scams, which is that the more time/money/emotion the victim’s invested in the [non-existent] dog, the more likely they are to fork out a little more.

  2. Irina

    They don’t actually warn about non-existent dogs, but give (sensible) tips for getting an actual dog. Strangely, they recommend getting an older cat from the shelter rather than a kitten, but assume that any dog people acquire is a puppy from a breeder!

  3. Irina

    Also they’re obviously running out of easy recaptchas– had to try twice before I got it. Serves me right for being too lazy to log in.


Leave a Reply to Irina Cancel reply

  • This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.